How Mindfulness Will Improve Your Voice
This post is based on an excerpt from Release Your Voice, a course to help you release more of your natural resonance with ease and let go of fear, doubt and technique overload.
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When was the last time you sang through a song and never worried about an upcoming note, difficult phrase OR past mistake you made along the way?
This never used to be the way that I sang, that’s for sure!
I would start stressing about a “hard” note at least the line before, if not a whole section before it happened. Sometimes that anxiety would creep in before I even let the first note fall out of my mouth!
I can hear it when one of my students is still beating themselves up about the note they cracked on several seconds ago. Their voice changes, they’re not as clear and anchored. Their tone isn’t as colourful or powerful.
That’s because their minds are elsewhere and they’re simply singing on autopilot, often because they’re over-thinking and analysing the sound.
AUTOPILOT VS INTENTIONAL SINGING
Let’s talk a little about singing on autopilot. We’ve all been there but we may not even realise we’re doing it.
It’s when you’re singing in the car while driving. It’s when you’re singing as you do the dishes. It can be when you’re singing at a show and get distracted by someone whispering in the corner or laughing at the bar.
It happens any time that you’ve “checked out” of the present moment or start to get caught up in the thoughts buzzing around in your head, and you’d be surprised at how often that happens to us when we sing.
ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM TECHNIQUE OVERLOAD?
Part of the problem is usually that we have a thousand things we’re trying to focus on at all times. Am I breathing correctly? Am I supporting my voice? What’s going on with my placement? The list is never-ending!
That’s why we need to commit one piece of the puzzle to our muscle memory at a time. Single tasking VS multi tasking my friend!
Choose one specific technique to focus on in your practice session so that you have your full awareness on that one thing. You’ll notice you get more consistency when you cut out the extra noise, no matter what technique you’ve chosen.
Now, let me just say, this is NOT EASY. Training your brain to concentrate solely on one thing (when you’re used to being scattered and flipping between multiple thoughts) can feel really tricky.
So be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you can only keep focused for a line or two at a time.
START TO PLAY WITH INTENTIONAL SINGING
How exactly can we start to put this into practice?
Choose the one technique or sensation you are going to focus on. It could be lowering the breath. Maybe it’s keeping your tongue or jaw loose. Perhaps it’s keeping a consistent vowel shape.
Pick a vocal exercise, any singing warm up you have handy. I want you to sing each note as it happens without worrying about the highest part, getting the melody right, your vocal break or any other distracting ideas.
Can you simply close your eyes and follow along with the pattern as it comes, focusing only on that one technique?
How easy/hard did you find that?
Did your mind wander?
Did it want to push any panic buttons when you changed registers?
Did you make a mistake and then think about that for several notes afterwards?
THE BENEFITS OF PRESENCE AND SINGLE TASKING
The first thing is that your body and its memory will adapt much faster. Because you're staying focused on the one thing you're trying to change, you'll be more aware of when you're sliding back into old habits and be able to correct them swiftly.
By focusing on one technique to change at a time, you'll make faster progress without the overwhelm. Woohoo!
As a bonus, when you are consciously singing each note as it happens they tend to sound fuller, richer.
Each note is given the same amount of attention and focus so it's less likely that you'll skip over small words or not properly land or anchor them. This means that it's easier to jump up to high notes because you've prepared the voice and you haven't anticipated anything "scary" or "difficult."
Notice the difference between the notes you're able to keep focused on and the ones where you start listening to those little voices in your head.
Is there less tension because your awareness is on the technique rather than getting emotional about the possibility of failure?
Do you hear more resonance coming through because you're not controlling the note from the throat?
Do you enjoy singing the song more because you're able to be present and FEEL the voice more when you're not analysing every note that comes out your mouth?
It takes practice to stay this focused and you'll have good and bad days where the mental chatter will crank up the volume.
When your mind starts to wander or critique, just get back to the one word you're singing at that moment and the technical aspect you have as your goal. It's like meditation in motion!